Higher Education

Badges and the Help Desk Environment

One of my responsibilities as eLearning Director at Tacoma Community College is to manage our student computer lab, the Information Commons.  In this lab we have a fully staffed help desk for studnets and faculty.  I have been trying to figure out a way to showcase a help desk staff member's expertise with applications to make it easier for students and faculty to find the help they need.  We have a board in the Information Commons with everyone's picture and I thought maybe we could post little icons on the board, but realized we would soon run out of space.  Then I started to hear about an open badge project with Mozilla and became very intrigued.  I recently joined the Open Badges and Assessment group at P2PU and have been learning quite a bit about the Mozilla project.

A way I envision using this open badge system in the Information Commons is to develop assessments around competencies for the different applications/devices we support.  When one of our staff complete an assessment they are awarded a badge that can be added to an Information Commons Help Desk Staff profile page.  This profile page would make it easy for students and faculty to find someone that can help them with their particular issue.  This would help expedite the resolution of a support issue which would make the student/faculty member happy.  In addition, our support staff would have a way to document their skill level with various applications/devices which could be added to a resume or portfolio and help me determine areas of support where we need to build capacity.

A Learner's Story

Andy is working on a project for his chemistry class and needs to plot some data points in Excel, but he hasn't done anything like that before.  He approaches the help desk to find someone that can help him with Excel.  One of the help desk staff, Amy, follows Andy to his work station to give him a hand.  Andy explains the issue he is having and Amy realizes that this issue is outside her area of expertise with Excel.  Amy goes back to the help desk and asks her colleagues if anyone has the skill necessary to help Andy.  She finds Bob who knows how to do this and brings him over to Andy.  Bob is able to show Andy how to plot data in Excel and Andy is able to finish his project.

How Badges Can Help

With the implementation of badges in the help desk environment staff members can showcase their competencies with various applications.  This will make it much easier for end users to determine who will be their best line of support with a given issue saving valuable time.

A Learner's Story with Badges

Andy is working on a project for his chemistry class and needs to plot some data points in Excel, but he hasn't done anything like that before.  Andy opens up the help desk staff page on his computer in the lab to see who might be avialable to assist him with his project.  He sorts the list by Excel and further by charts/graphs.  He sees that Bob has sufficient experience and will be coming on duty in a few minutes.  He sends Bob a quick email message letting him know what computer he is on.  When Bob comes to work he checks his messages and notices a message from Andy stating he needs help with Excel and heads to the listed work station to provide support.

Q & A Session with Cable Green

On Tuesday, May 4th, our English 101 class was visited by Cable Green, the eLearning Director for the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. Our class had read his interview with Creative Commons and was introduced to the Open Course Library project the week before. The students were asked to prepare questions for Cable regarding the interview and the project. We used Elluminate to bring Cable into class from his office in Olympia. I walked around the room with a hand held microphone with the panache of Phil Donahue so students could ask their questions. They asked some really great questions about faculty development around technology, open source textbooks and online education. I really enjoyed Cable’s description of a capstone course that helped students develop a PLN so they are connected with peers in their field that will be able to help them get jobs in their future career. This was kind of the concept that Ken Fox and I had when we first started talking about this English 101 class we are teaching now. I also learned something new about Cable too. I have known Cable for a couple of years now, but I had no idea that he wanted to be a spy when he entered college.

Faculty Learning Communities

Last Friday our Faculty Learning Community on Social Media met at the Mandolin Cafe. This was our second get together. Even though we have only had two meetings there have been a lot of great ideas generated and some wonderful conversation. There has been a lot of sharing of experiences, ideas and fears around using technology in instruction. I have to admit that I expected to see some attrition (which happens all too often in meetings) from the first to the second meeting, but the fact is we grew by one!

So far we have discussed Second Life, digital literacy, instant messaging and keeping up with technology in the world of perpetual beta. One instructor shared her blog and wiki on teaching with Second Life in ESL classes.